‘Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea’. That’s what I overheard on the tube the other day as one friend consoled the other, presumably over her latest breakup. We’ve all been there and said that, but it did get me thinking… are there actually plenty more fish in the sea? As I’ve already found my fish for life, and with food on my mind as always, I was thinking about the real fish in the real sea. Do we still have loads of those? I have been pondering a little more than usual about which fish we eat – along with taste, we’ve also been thinking about sustainability so the arrival of Trawler Trash to the London restaurant scene couldn’t have been more timely!
Trawler Trash are focused on serving up the lesser known, less desirable fish in an effort to be as sustainable and responsible as possible. It’s an ethos which a certain someone and I are very much on board with and seems like a commendable stance, and it is, but it’s also a very practical one which should be commonplace. According to them, around 15% to 20% of any catch is ‘by-catch’; like those distant cousins you never speak to or that mysterious new girl at work, give them half a chance and you might get along quite well. Jesting aside, the point is simple: the fish has been caught, it’s edible, so let’s eat it.
Whilst munching through a very moreish bowl of seaweed tempura, we stared down at the menu and were mildly disappointed. Gurnard, hake, cuttlefish? Smoked, chargrilled, pan-roasted? Where were the weird and wonderful fish varieties we’d never heard of and why weren’t they being subjected to new-fangled forms of cooking? Then the penny dropped. For a lot of fish eating folk, these are weird and unusual simply because they’re not cod, salmon, or haddock, and we should be making them seem accessible and familiar. We continued to mull on that over some Jersey oysters; if Trawler Trash are encouraging us to eat them for the good of the seas, then who are we to object. These sustainably farmed jewels were perfect and we slurped them away in a heartbeat with a splash of the trash dressing and tabasco.
A leafy salad of smoked eel, fresh herbs and pickled grapes was full of contrasting but complimentary flavours, all unapologetically bold. The glistening chunks of eel were as oily and salty as I had hoped, and when eaten alongside the sweet grapes, were a most harmonious mouthful. The air-dried charred octopus with green tomatoes and chilli were even better still. We could have done with a more potent dose of the chilli, but the tomatoes were well seasoned, and the succulent octopus was definitely deserving of star status. It reduced us both to brazen rummaging for every last morsel, particularly the charred crispy bits!
Trash pie, the Trawler Trash version of a fish pie, was a reliably comforting dish that epitomised their concept well. It’s one of those classic ‘throw it together with what you have’ dishes, but never have I ever seen it thrown together in such a pretty fashion. It won’t send your tastebuds to dazzling new heights but this trash pie will bring warmth to your belly; the kind that can only be achieved when you have a generous assortment of seafood enveloped in an unctuous sauce, and topped with fluffy mashed potatoes. How could anyone not like fish pie?
The chargrilled gurnard with sprouting broccoli, salsify, sorrel and salted anchovies also got a big tick in the taste and sustainability stakes. This ugly bottom-dweller of the sea was once frowned upon and only considered good enough for lobster bait, but now its star (and price) is rising slowly. Chefs and critics have been known to praise its subtle flavours and firm, meaty texture. Here, it admirably withstood the chargrilling and assault from the piquant salsify and salty, perhaps a touch too much so, anchovies, to come together in a fresh, tasty dish.
If they had managed to incorporate any trawler trash into the dessert menu, I would have been really intrigued, but they are far more sensible than that. The dessert offering is a small but well-considered collection of British flavours – there’s a panna cotta with rhubarb, a Pimms jelly, and a Trash chocolate bar. All of which sounded just lovely, but when we went I was lured in by the Eton Mess special. There were no bells and whistles, but it was elegant and satisfying, which is sort of a good description of the whole meal.
I think our enthusiasm for the concept might have set our expectations and imaginations racing too high, but once we got over our quest for the avant garde, we appreciated Trawler Trash for what it is, and what it is trying to do. I’m no expert but I’m guessing that there probably aren’t as many fish in the sea as we thought, and some are dwindling at an unnaturally fast rate so we need to be a bit more conscious in our consuming. Trawler Trash have dived into this issue head on, embraced the trash fish, and turned them into tasty treasures!
Do you consider sustainability when sourcing your seafood?
Have you ever eaten trawler trash before?
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